You quite literally couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ninth-inning situation during the 2023 World Baseball Classic Championship on Tuesday night.
Team Japan and Team USA squared off for the WBC crown, which set up a battle between the faces of Major League Baseball in Los Angeles Angels teammates Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. A baseball enthusiast’s dream, right? What more could you ask for?
Well… the final out answered that question.
After Cedric Mullins flew out in the top of the eighth inning, Ohtani, while warming up in the bullpen, was set up to take the mound for Japan in the ninth. And after Japan went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth, that’s exactly what he did. But with Trout due up in the ninth to hit third, a picture-perfect script from destiny placed Ohtani on the hill with a 1-run game, two outs and his Angels co-star in the batter’s box.
Trout, with a shot at evening the game up for the United States, came up short and struck out, not even making contact on two 100 mph fastballs and a slider at 87 mph, giving Japan their third WBC title.
That final out, as expected, put Twitter in an uproar in just a matter of seconds:
Japan retakes the lead as the WBC’s leader in championships.
Ohtani, who recorded the game-winning save and won two other starts for Japan, was named MVP of the WBC. Ohtani also hit .435/.606/.739 with a home run, four doubles and eight RBIs through Japan’s perfect 7-0 run.
The tournament, which was a global success, even raised the eyebrows of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who before the game made an announcement for the deeply passionate WBC fans worldwide that reached record-setting attendance and viewership numbers.
“Oh, we’re gonna be back,” Manfred said before Tuesday’s WBC finale, per MLB Network video. “We’re gonna play another WBC. We will be back. Definitely 2026.”
Manfred added: “We needed the best players in the game to play.”